"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grace for a Cracked Little One

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It cracked!  Oh no!!  

It cracked and we both instantly felt afraid.

Straight through the delicate, beautiful, pink flowers was an obvious crack.

Mom!!!  Mom, what do I do!?  The look in her eyes was sheer panic. I felt it, too.

The heat of shame flushed down my neck as I realized what had just happened.  The borrowed tea cup had just cracked!

They had freely given my daughter this precious item to use... but, it had also come with a warning.  Be careful!  Please be careful, she had said, it is very fragile.  She had been careful!!  I watched her carefulness.  Proud of her, I watched as she heeded the generous warning...

But it didn't matter.  This precious piece of history was now leaking tea...  it had cracked.

My girl had just needed one more tea cup and saucer for the Christmas tea she was hosting.  Last minute, we asked around... neighbors.  And, this one was given.

It was 50 years old.  Bought on a honeymoon to commemorate a marriage.  A precious treasure that was then stored away... hardly ever used.  But, freely given.  They wanted her to use it.

And, she had been so very careful with it!

But, it clearly cracked and leaked.  We both felt afraid and ashamed.

Mom, what do I do!? 

In that moment, I calmly advised her to lay it down.  She had done her best, I told her.  We would deal with the problem after the party.

Lay it down, my sweet girl. 

Go enjoy your party.  Enjoy your friends.  It is not a worry for now.  Lay it down. 

Sweet girl, they will be graceful.

These last words were spoken with a hopeful prayer behind them.  Oh! Father, help them to be graceful!

We hang on so tightly to things, don't we!?  We treasure this world and our homes and our bodies.  We grasp and we grab and we just tug a bit tightly.  Or, at least, I do.  When our world and our bodies and our things break---we feel angry, we feel hurt.  It hurts when our things crack.

What grief might this cracked-precious-thing bring to my dear friends?  The thought made my stomach turn.

The Christmas tea went off without another hitch.  The giggling and singing of girl-friends wafted through the house.  She had moved on and enjoyed!

But, she hadn't forgotten.  After the laughter died down, the games were finished and the party was over, she looked at me again with fear.  Go with me, please, Mom!  I need you.   We walked hand-in-hand.  We walked the tiny, delicate, now-damaged memento home to her owners.

Do you know what they said...

The word grace hardly even describes the response.  It felt bigger, sweeter, and even more tender than grace.

The minute my sweet girl confessed the crack, those old eyes sparkled and even laughed a bit with light in them, "Oh!  Honey! Don't you worry another minute.  I am so sorry you were troubled about it at all.  Honey, I am going to heaven soon... and I am NOT taking this with me!"

I am not taking this with me! 

As we left, I thanked her for her grace.  She chuckled out loud this time, "Oh, dear! If I can't give grace at this age, then none of us have hope!"

My girl and I left their home with a lightness in our step and praise on our lips.

I guess we had many lessons to learn that night...  a lesson in trying your best and things still cracking!  A lesson in letting things go and enjoying a party anyway.  I think we had a lesson in prayer and hopeful expectations.   And a lesson in repentance and humility.  A lesson in the giving and receiving of grace.

Most certainly we both had a lesson in what really matters.  In holding a bit less tightly to this world.

A lighter hand.  A looser grip.

If it cracks a bit... it really is okay.  There is grace for that, too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How I Wish I Had Gold!

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I received an early Christmas gift last week and it was a massive surprise.  Extravagant and unexpected, this gift shocked me when I saw it.   My kids now fondly call this gift "The 'Oh my goodness!'" Apparently, that is what I said over and over again when I saw it.  I was so surprised!  Those were the words that came out...  "Oh my goodness!... Oh! my goodness! ... Oh! my goodness!"

In reality, these were hardly words and mostly just raw emotion.  I was overwhelmed.  I was so thankful.

Tonight as we were singing some familiar Christmas carols, I was struck with a line in one of the songs... "so bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king to own Him"  (from What Child is This?).  As I sang these words, I had this unexpected, deep, almost-groaning-desire well up within me and my soul whispered a prayer...  Oh! Jesus, if only I had gold.  

Oh! Jesus if only I had gold.  I would lay it down.  I would lay it at your feet.  

I was overwhelmed tonight with the thought of This extravagant gift.  Jesus.  "a son given"  (Isaiah 9:6)

Jesus.  Given.  And, my heart was washed with a sense of awe and an "Oh! my goodness!" that was beyond words.

What can I lay down tonight in response to This Amazing Gift--- Jesus, my brother?  My friend.  My loving and grace-filled Savior.  My redeemer.  My everything!  How can I say thank you?   Words fail me.

I could lay down this extravagant Christmas gift given to me last week.  Yes! Absolutely, in a heart beat.  I lay it down.  But, really, it would be just pittance.  Pittance.

What can I lay down, Lord Jesus?  I will bring it...  I will lay it at your feet!

What is my gold?  What is my incense and my myrrh?

There is only a deep, welling desire to worship.

Oh how I wish I had gold!

"Haste! Haste to bring Him laud..."  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Darkness Can Do Me In

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These dark, northern hemisphere mornings can just do me in.

The alarm rang this morning and it was just entirely too early.  It felt so very dark.  And... so very cold. Every fiber in my body wanted to stay in my warm and cozy bed... and stay in my warm and cozy sleep, too!

I didn't want to get up.

I just plain did. not. want. to!  Do you ever feel this way?

With a quick, whispered plea-prayer for help, a strength from within pulled and tugged me out of bed.  One foot in front of the other.

These are the moments I am so grateful for the day-in-and-day-out quiet times in God's Word.  Each day, I journey downstairs in the early morning and I eat a meal from Scripture.  In prayer, I drink from my Father's well of grace, love and goodness.  He feeds me on His Truth--on Himself.  These daily meals are the drink, food and spiritual calories that my heavy feet are desperately reliant upon when the truly hard mornings and hard days come.

But, today's early morning darkness and chill didn't dissipate with my quiet time.  It didn't dissipate with my forced-exercise (me forcing me, for clarity sake!).  I. dont. want. to!  was all that really bounced around in my soul.  Like a child having a tantrum, my body and my heart fought each morning's step... each routine.

It didn't dissipate when the sun finally did rise and my children bounded down with joyful greeting.  It still lingered when we began to read God's word together as a family.  I still wanted to go back to bed.

But the routine was there and the Truth was not far behind.   Truth began to speak tenderly into my heart in these moments.

Truth pushed me out of bed and followed me downstairs.  Truth sat with me, in tender patience, as I wandered aimlessly about in my "time-with-God".  Truth followed me into the kitchen this morning and then into the bathroom.  In fact, Truth from last week's God-meal flooded into my mind as I threw myself into the shower...  "My soul finds rest in God alone.  ...Find rest, O my soul!"  (Psalm 62)

Like a quiet voice, these words wafted across my mind.    Find rest, O my soul.

It was in that moment something seemed to alter and awaken.  In that moment the Truth seemed to find a home in my hungry heart.  Ah... my soul seemed to say... ah!  Yes! 

My soul needs rest.  Rest. 

In God alone.  

Find rest, O my soul, in to God alone.  Find rest, Stephanie, in God alone.  

These words, God's Truth,  filled me and moved me and washed over me as the water rinsed my shampooed hair.  His Truth had followed me all morning long and He was, indeed, all the rest I needed today.

For today, I am not done-in by the darkness and the cold.

"Surely Your goodness and Your mercy will follow me all the days of my life!"  (Psalm 23)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

You are Here

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For a while now I had been trying the Prayer of Examen and finding myself quite frustrated.

Each night as I would prayerfully consider my day, I had trouble really remembering or getting in touch with what I had experienced internally.  I could remember the day's events, of course, but had a hard time expressing to God all that I had been feeling in that given day. The "Examen" step where you are to "pay attention to your emotions" as you analyze throughout the day was frustrating and felt unhelpful.  Apparently, I generally walk through a good portion of my days very much unaware and very much in auto-pilot.

So, I have been trying something "new" these past few weeks.  I am trying a "Stephanified-version" of the Ignatian Examen.  Maybe we could call it the Examen for the Unaware.  Or the Examen for the Memory-Impaired.  Whatever you want to call it, I have been trying something new!

And there is something big and beautiful shifting inside me as a result!

Three or four times a day, I attempt to purposefully stop whatever I am doing.  (I do have alarms that ring to help remind me!) I stop and internally ask one simple question:  Where am I or where have I been these past hours?

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Someone told me the other day that Larry Crabb calls this "a red dot moment".  That little-red-dot.  You know when you walk into a shopping mall and are looking for the shoe store or the card shop.  The mall's large directory stands looming before you and you scan.  You look for where you need to go, of course.  And, then you scan for what?  What do you find? ...A little red dot and the words, "You are here".  That little red dot helps you tremendously, doesn't it?  Now, you can find the card shop.  But, if you don't know where you are in relation to that large map... you could be stuck.

Maybe it is an overstatement, but I have felt slightly stuck for years.  Years and years I have been asking God for more awareness and more consciousness of His Presence throughout my day.  I think He is answering my prayer in a strange and unexpected way.   Where I have been asking Him to show me Himself... He is teaching me to see myself, instead.  I think He is teaching me to really see myself.  Where am I?

I am not "looking" for Him perse, anymore.  I am trying to find me.  And, in return, I am seeing Him!  He is showing Himself to me.  As I become more aware of where I am,  I am sensing Him with me... in the processing.  In the awareness.  He is with me right in the "red dot moment".

I stop.  I ask myself, Where am I?  Where have I been these past few hours?

...sad.  upset.  ...harried. ...overwhelmed. ...joyful. ...irritated.  ...worried.  ...prayerful. ...peaceful. ...fearful. ...angry.  ...annoyed.  At any given part of my day, I can "be" in any of these places.

There is something shifting inside me.  I believe the Holy Spirit is shifting something deep within.  Awareness seems to be the key.  I don't even feel a great need to analyze or judge these "places" or these "feelings". They just are.  Realities.

They are just true.  And, they are covered and contained by Him and in Him.

As I have been watching these moods, these feelings, these reactions... I am seeing some patterns.  God and I will need many new discussions about the whys of these realities.  Why do I feel this way, for example... when this or that happens?  But, for right now, that doesn't seem to be the point.

I know where I want to go.  I know the "shop" I am aiming for:  more awareness of Him and His Presence.  I am realizing that first I need to know better, or figure out more truth, about where I am before I journey toward that End.

"How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self? Grant, Lord, that I may know myself, that I may know thee.” ~St. Augustine

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What do you see?

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Sometimes it is simply a matter of how you look at it.

What is it I see and of what do I make note?

Today, I can look out the window and notice that the hydrangea plant isn't flowering much and isn't getting very full.  It seems to still be more green than red--will it ever be full of color?

Or, I can look at that same hydrangea plant and remark on the radiant deep red that colors the top half of the bush.   I can note how the colors combine and compliment each other reminding me that Christmas is coming---red and green!  It is simply a matter of how I see.

I can notice and complain about how the hydrangea bush seems to be growing at an odd and awkward angle ...  or, instead, I can declare the remarkable way it is growing outward and upward, stretching and straining toward the afternoon sun!  This plant will do anything, even a strange crick of it's neck, to drink in the sunlight.

What do I see when I look at that same-said plant?

Day-in-and-day-out we all have a choice.   I have the choice today.

I was exercising this morning to a work-out video.  In the video, the instructor says, "If you can do any of this work-out, you have reason to praise God!"  I was so deeply struck with her perspective.  In that moment, I was frustrated that I couldn't do this-and-that... that my stamina was so limited.  She was looking at the same-said workout with a different lens.  She reminded me that I have reason to praise God!  I can move and jump and all my limbs work today!  I can exercise.  And, that, in-and-of-itself, is reason to worship.

What will I see today?

Will I note those things that are undone?  Or can I notice and rejoice in those things that have been accomplished...

Will I note the lack of faith or the worry in my heart, or enter into those moments when I feel close and experience trust?

Sometimes it is just a matter of how I choose to look at it.

I want to see the deep red of the hydrangea and rejoice as it lifts it's head toward the light. I want to be thankful for breath in my lungs, feet that work and faith that resides deep in my heart.  I want to be watchful and aware today and see, in wonder, all the good and perfect gifts from God, my Father.   Give me eyes to see, Father.  

**funny postscript.  Just after writing and posting this blog, I walked into the school room with my son's corrected math homework. As I handed it to him, he asked, "How many did I get wrong?".  Son, I said, don't ask how many you got wrong... ask me, "How many did I get right!?"  He laughed at me and asked again, "Mom, how many did I get wrong?"
...we all have a choice.  Day in and day out.  How many things will I see aright today?  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Beauty of Death

The piercing wind and cold has come to this beautiful land.  We must use our fire each day to keep our house warm and a simple, quick walk to take out the trash leaves me deeply cold.  I must sit in front of the blazing wood fire, in order to take the chill off my back and keep it out of my bones.

Fall has come and winter is on it's heals fast here!

As I took my morning walk yesterday, out and into the fields around our house, I was struck with the beauty of death.

All around me the leaves are dying and falling.  They littered my path in browns, oranges and red.  What beauty to behold in this always-green place I live.  Color scattered!  They die and fall.  As they die the display such splendor.

Beauty in death.  As I walk and pray, I am reminded of the Scriptures that I have been directed to as of late:  "teach me to number my days rightly, that I may apply my heart to wisdom."  (Psalm 90:12) and "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  (Mark 8:34)

Not all death is beautiful, I know.  I know this deeply and watch other deaths around me every day with a profound, deep, lingering sadness.  Like seeing the once berry-full-bushes which gave me such joy as we ate our way through the fields only a month ago.  Now, they look horrid... withered, black, abandoned, and tired.  Will they ever produce again?  These remind me of ugly deaths.

But, some death can be beautiful.  Death can fall with color...

Thomas a Kempis reminds us, "My dear friends, abandon yourself, and you will find Me.  Give up your will and every title to yourself, and you will always come out ahead, for greater grace will be yours the moment you turn yourself over to Me once and for all."

Reuben Job reminds us, "Jesus always invites us to choose life by forsaking our way of life for his way of life."  

And, Henri Nouwen writes, "In the act of prayer, we undermine the illusion of control by divesting ourselves of all false belongings and by directing ourselves totally to the God who is the only one to whom we belong.  Prayer is the act of dying to all that we consider to be our own and of being born to a new existence which is not of this world.  Prayer is indeed a death to the world so that we can live for God".  

A greater grace.  Choosing life through death.  A new existence that is not of this world.  To live for God. To live in God... through God.  This can be a death that sparkles with color!

Would denying myself... my choice to die to me and choose life, real life--- His life in me... Could that death be colorful and beautiful?  I think so.  This is what I am pondering today.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  Galatians 2:20

re-post from October 2011

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shut Up!

 "Eve, don't listen to the liar!" by Paul Gauguin (Photo Source)
Sometimes I have to just tell her to "shut up".

Sometimes I need to say "Step back! Step-off! and Shut up!

Do you ever hear her or him... that inner critic, that judge and shame-dealer?

She pokes and prods and tells me how lame I am or what a failure I am.  She tells me to give-up and that it isn't worth it.  And, sometimes she tells me that I am unloved or unlovable.

When she "speaks", she is tenacious.   Always, she is a liar.  She is mean, unforgiving and ungraceful.

Today, she is plaguing me.  Like fingernails on a black chalk board, her "voice" is grating and shrill. It is time to tell her to "shut up".  Enough already.  Be quiet, in Jesus Name!

The Voice of Truth tells me a different story.  His Words are true and kind.  They are gentle, humble and dripping with grace.  And, with His voice,  all things can be calmed.

...even her ugly critiques.

So, this morning I say, "Enough is enough!"  In the name and power of Jesus, be still.  And, shut up!

I know that she's a liar when I look into her eyes
But I believe in every word she says
She's out to start a fire burning everything I have
I can't put it out 'cause it's all inside my head 
And then You sing
I hear You sing

You call me lovely
You call me friend
You call me out of death and let me try again
You call me beloved
You call me clean
Then you show me all the beauty that you see in me

I still hear her whisper and sometimes I hear her shout 
You're not good enough and you will never be 
But if I focus on Your singing I can start to tune her out
'Cause You came with a love to set me free

I know that You love me enough to die
And I will try to see the value that you place on me
And You say I'm worthy

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What God Actually Wants From Me

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I have read it so many times before.

But in that moment of time, the words seemed to jump off the page and fill my mind and heart with such emotion.  His Word moved and shifted something deep within my very soul.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.  (Deuteronomy 6:5)  We read this verse together during a wonderful bible study I attended on Thursday night.

Thou shall love the Lord...

This!  I thought.

This is what our Almighty God asks of us---of me.  This is what He wants---what He really wants from His people.  His greatest command.  His greatest heart desire.  My God wants me to love him.

This is what He requires... love.

Love Me, He says.  Love Me with your whole life--with all you are.  

Love Me, Stephanie.  

In our home education studies of Ancient Civilizations, the kids and I have been studying the multitude of ancient religions.  From before written history, humanity has been worshiping and practicing religion. Most every culture has had gods... or even a god... that they worship.  But, besides the Jews, none...  absolutely none... are given such an intimate request and command:  Love Me.

Other "gods" need to be managed or feared or placated.  They need to be appeased and fed and avoided.  They want obedience or submission or worship.  For weeks as we have studied these other religions I have been moved and blessed by the fact that God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, My Father...  is so entirely different than any other "god".  His Word is so very unique.  He has always been unique and different.  He has always been set-apart.  And, He will always be.

He alone is God!

He reveals Himself as something totally "other" and He offers something that no other "god" can offer:  a love relationship.

What an invitation!  He offers us relationship and He asks one primary thing from us.. our love.

I am struck by the thought that when my husband asked me to marry him, he too was asking something from me.  He was telling me that he loved me, yes; but, he was asking one thing from me--- love me, Stephanie.
Can you love me... can you return my love?

This.  This is what my God, my Husband, is asking of me today.  Can you love Me, Stephanie?
Love Me with all you are...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life Long Journey of Grace

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It's a journey of grace, my sweet son.

Every day.  Needed grace...

My son has been reading a great book, Growing Up Christian by Mark Jacobsen.  In this book the author challenges students to take their faith in God seriously... to make it "there own".  He pokes a bit at the non-Christian student living in the home of Christian parents.  He wants his readers to think, to analyze, and to test their faith.  He writes in a winsome way, to be sure; but, my eleven year old son hears something different as he reads.  He has taken it to heart so seriously that he has been in tears a few times.

Confused.  Agitated.  Upset.  Am I even a real Christian, Mom?...  he has wondered and questioned out-loud.

It is journey of grace, my son.  A journey... one foot in front of the other.  

My son deeply loves God.  My son also struggles with the need to be perfect; or the desire to be "already done".  He struggles with frustration and defensiveness with his own weakness and sin.  He wants to be perfect today.  Yesterday would have been nice.

Hmmm...just like his Mamma.  Nature or nurture?  I don't know.  But, I heard his heart and knew his pain as he struggled through today's chapter on pride.  He questioned and felt angst!  I think he was even angry at the book.  I get it.

In this chapter, Mark Jacobsen is inviting the reader to a sweet adventure in humility.  He is pointing out the difficulty of pride in our lives.  He is offering suggestions and pathways to walk to becoming more humble. Very helpful, for sure.  But, to my son, he heard condemnation.  He grieved the fact that he isn't there yet.

I am so prideful, Mom!  

And, if I am honest (which Jacobsen encourages), I don't even really want to be humble at all!   All this was said with exasperation and frustration--- not with the author, exactly, but with himself.

His father's words were priceless... "Oh, buddy, don't worry... you will be struggling with your pride for years to come!"  We all laughed.

One foot in front of the other...

It is a journey of grace, my boy.  Every day.  All day.  Needed grace.  

I keep telling my son... and telling myself... that perfection is not for today and probably not tomorrow either. He chuckles when I say this.  So, do I.    Of course it isn't!?  We can laugh together at our insecurities and our quirks.

Perfection isn't for today; but, instead we have just grace.  Just simple, marvelous, unexplainable, incredible grace.

I remind him often that we have fresh mercy every day and we can fall into His unfailing love and faithfulness.  Just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, he will indeed sin or at the least he will want to sin.  And, just as sure as the sun will set tomorrow, God has grace for that too...

I need it today.  You?  I need that never-ending, abundant grace poured out from my loving Father.

Every day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Made With Love

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Things just taste better when they are made with joy and love!

These words popped out of my sweet girl's mouth this morning as our family delighted in the breakfast creation she and her brother made.

Mouth full of sticky, gooey goodness, she declared this truth:  When something is made with joy, it tastes so good going down.

I agree, sweet girl.  I agree.

I had made the recipe before:  "Apple Fritters".  It is a tasty recipe.  We all enjoyed it last time.  But this time, something was different.  They were astounding!  So very, very yum!

"Why?" I wondered.  "What did you guys do differently?"  I asked as I licked my fingers with delight.

"Things just taste better when they are made with joy and love!"

She isn't wrong...

She and her brother had planned this cooking extravaganza together days before.  They had anticipated the activity and been excited to do this special breakfast for me and my husband.  And, they had laughed, sang and worked with fun the whole time.

These doughnuts were fried-up with joy and sprinkled with love.

The cooking, the cleaning, the emails and the work I do every day...  what is it that makes the difference?  What, indeed, makes these things "taste" good--to me or to others?  What is that spoon-full-of-sugar that is available for every task and every job?

May I learn from my children, Lord.  May the work of my hands... the tasks of my day... be done with joy and with love.  May songs, laughter, and relationship flavor all that I do!  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sleep Walking

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I fall asleep so quickly...

I slumber and slip into numbness with the simple tasks of cooking, cleaning, teaching my children and walking to the store...  I slip into a state of "to-do" and "task-girl".   I slide into automatic.   Do you ever do this?  Like a dishwasher, just push the "start" button on Stephanie and off I go... working without much thought or "life" or awareness.  Almost inanimate.

I think Jesus is inviting me to something more... a life lived more alive.  More awake.

"Be dressed and ready", He has been saying.  (Luke 12:35)

"Stay alert, watchful and awake", He has been speaking to my soul. (1 Peter 5:8)  Not words of condemnation, but these have been words of invitation and wisdom.

I have more for you, Stephanie.

I went away on a three day spiritual retreat this week.  What a joy!   The beauty of silence, solitude and pulling away are always balm to my soul.  Curled up in the comfy easy-chair in my friend's living room, I sat with my journal, my Bible and my pens...  "What is it you want to do with our time, Jesus?"  I asked and waited.

Go outside and take a walk into town.


The quiet words wafted across my mind.  Go outside.  Take a walk into town.   "What, Lord? Go outside?  Take a walk into town?"  No, that can't possibly be from God.

So, I asked Him again.


Twenty minutes later (after explaining to God all the reasons why I shouldn't be doing "this" on my pull-away-quiet-solitude spiritual retreat!) the invitation still hung in the air of my soul.  It was like the words just waited patiently for a response.  Go outside and walk into town.  

So, I put on my shoes and my coat and took a step outside.   Crisp cool air hit my face and woke me up.

I have more for you, Stephanie.  Be awake and alert.  Be watchful.  

I walked up into town with an obedient heart.  I was so alive in those moments.  Awake and aware.    Extra aware, extra sensitive.  I was listening.  What was it He had for me?  Why would He ask me to do this?  Who, Lord?  What is it, Lord Jesus?  Show me?  Teach me...  Lord, I want to walk into town with you.

I walked into town with Jesus that day... In those sweet moments, I was so very awake.  I felt alive.  From the beginning until the end of my walk, I felt that I "saw" everyone, smelled everything and heard all.  I noticed each soul and prayed my way through the town.  I was waiting and watching and listening... What do you have for me, Lord Jesus?  My heart was asking.

I have this..  

I have this awareness, Stephanie.  Awakeness.  Surrendered-obedient-anticipating-adventuring-aware-awakeness.  Learn to walk through all of your life in this way, my daughter.  

Because... I fall asleep so easily.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Old Videos...Old (and New) Grace

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Clunky, chunky old VHS tapes gather dust in the back of our television cupboard.  Tucked away in a place we never go, a place we forget, these video tapes sit quietly keeping record of another time---was it another life?

We pulled one out last week to watch with our kids.  We hadn't seen these tapes in over fifteen years.  In fact, I am not sure we have ever watched these tapes...

In the first scene, here she was---Stephanie---a blond pony-tailed girl, hardly touched by the early morning 5 AM taping of our departure!  Young kids we were... in our early twenties...  leaving the known of California and venturing out to follow God's call overseas.  Duffle bags, a scarf for my head and wearing a long skirt, we were flying away to Central Asia.  What were we thinking?!  We had only been married for 2 years. We knew that God was asking us to go.  

Bright eyed and not a speck of grey in my hair, we were so young!  

I watched and found myself judging that young Stephanie.  Liking "her" sometimes and not liking her much at other moments in the video tape,  I watched and judged and wondered...  who was she, anyway?  And, who am I now?  Did I like her better then?  Do I like who I have become now?  

Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?!   

As I sat in my clunky and chunky living room chair, I wondered and I prayed.  Feeling heavy with the memories of mistakes and victories, I needed to process these VHS moments.  In my mind's eye, I prayerfully walked through those fifteen years with Jesus... asking.  Watching... Wondering.  

What does He see?  What would He say? 

Taking a walk down memory lane with Jesus, I asked for His thoughts.  

His words poured over my soul.  Grace.  Unmerited favor.  

It is all grace.  

My grace has covered you since before you were born!  I have walked with you.  I walked with you then, Stephanie... yes, as you stumbled and fell.  Yes, as you stood firm and walked in victory.  

All along... I have poured out grace.
Grace.  Favor poured out.  

My grace has covered you and covers you now.  And, will continue to cover you.  Every day. 

Every day grace.  It is all grace, Stephanie.  Just grace.  Just beautiful, powerful, unexplained grace.    

"From the first to last... all my life will pass through grace!" ~Mike Rayson, "Just Grace"  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Born to War

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Early this morning, he came to me tired and discouraged.  He just wanted to go back to bed.  He was confused and foggy.   Doubt and dark thoughts swarmed in and out of his mind.

I have been there many times before!  Have you?

Sometimes when he feels this, though, I begin to feel afraid.  I worry.  I can't fix it.  I can't make him "feel" any different---or better.

"Is this spiritual attack, Mom?"  He asked knowingly.

"Yes, my love!"  Yes.  All of life is spiritual, my sweet boy.  And, in this spiritual life, sometimes we are attacked!

"We are born to war", I heard it said a few weeks ago.

Every moment of our every day is lived in the spiritual realm.  We war against our own flesh, the world, and the enemy of our souls, Satan and his demons.  Each of these is spiritual attack.  ...attack against our spirit and the Spirit of God within!  Yes, indeed, if you are discouraged and hopeless and confused and foggy...

Yes, this is part of the war you were born to, my sweet boy.

The Kingdom of Jesus is love, truth, peace*, joy and light.  The enemies of Jesus prowl around looking to devour life, love and joy.  They are seeking to kill hope and energy and peace.  (John 10:10)

"You know how to fight, my son", I reminded him.  He brimmed with tears...

How do you fight?  What is your pathway back to joy and truth---back to the awareness of Christ's Presence?  He knows.  He just forgot this morning. That is why we need each other.  Sometimes we just need a nudge and a reminder.

I gave my sweet boy a gentle nudge.  "Go worship, sweet boy!"...  "Get outside and lift your voice in praise". It was a suggestion, not a command.  He complied.  He put on his coat and gloves, donned his wellies and his hat and outside he went.

And, he worshiped God in word and in song.  

I sat quietly in my chair, with a lingering fear and concern, and prayed for him.  Choosing my own pathway to joy, I worshiped in prayer and through His Word.  "In you O Lord, my son is taking refuge.  Do not let Him be put to shame.  In Your righteousness rescue my boy, O Lord.  Deliver him. Be His rock again today. Please be his refuge."  (Psalm 71:1-3)

Red cheeked and bright eyed he came back inside a few minutes later.  He was literally leaping and bouncing with joy.  He told me that literally as he stepped outside and was choosing to go... he began to feel the joy and peace filling.  The darkness began to lift.

A battle won.  Thank you, Jesus! my heart sang.

What is your worship pathway back to joy and peace?  Is it musical song... Is it thankfulness?  Or, quiet prayer or reading His word?  Is it dancing or walking?  What step forward do you need to take today...

We are born to war.  

Help me Father to suit up and look to you to fight for me.  Help me to walk forward in worship today!  "As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes for their enemies" (2 Chronicles 20)

*I am writing here about an internal peace that passes understanding---something beyond our circumstances and trouble.  I am not suggesting a pain-free existence... instead a peace filled, joy-full living a midst pain and real troubles in this world.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Throwing Tantrums Today

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I get angry.  Sometimes I get really angry... and I throw a two-year-old tantrum.   This morning was one of those mornings.  In one silly moment, I quite literally held my fists in a ball and threw my head back with a loud "UUUGGHHH!"

Funnily, the healthier I have gotten as a person, the louder these 'outbursts' have become.  Weird.  I know.  But, true, none-the-less.  You see, for most of my life, my anger just seethed and simmered.  Undetected by most.  But very real to me. And, now, I am more aware of it's presence and I am more comfortable verbalizing how I am feeling.  My family is getting used to me saying, "I am feeling angry right now."  I don't feel I have to hide or pretend or be other than I am...  angry, at that particular moment.

It isn't that my anger is good or righteous.  Very, very rarely is that the case.  This morning it was utter frustration with a rather trite matter...  It was unrighteous and unhelpful, really.  I was simply irritable, annoyed and impatient.  And, therefore, angry.

After my toddler-tantrum this morning, I felt very unsettled.  The tantrum brought no peace.  In fact, in it's wake came more anger.  Now, I was angry at myself for my bad behavior.  It is good to be aware.  The outburst didn't help; but, the awareness did.  I could have seethed again... dug deep, pushed down the fresh anger and felt a day of shame.  I didn't.  I told God I was frustrated.  I told Him I was angry at myself and my response.  I asked Him for grace and forgiveness.

Praying my way through the morning... asking God what His thoughts were...  I think I might have heard His whisper...  "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21)  The Kingdom of God... Jesus's Kingdom of Peace and Light.  Refuge and Strength

Tender words.  These words wafted over my mind and I was reminded of the indwelling of the Spirit of God within me.  His Kingdom within... around... in the midst.

It was a sweet reminder that I have a place to run to when frustrated and irritable.  I have refuge within and around me...  My Rock.  When I am unsteady and impatient... I can turn and run inward to this place of peace---running to the Spirit of God within me.  He holds and carries and contains and fills.

A frustrated two year old has a choice.  I know because I have had two of them.  I distinctly remember saying to my two year old child, "Are you frustrated?  I see you are very frustrated...  Come here.  Let me help you.  Let me hold you."  When they chose refuge in my arms, they would find peace and calm and ...help.

I don't have to seethe and push it down.  I can acknowledge the true emotion.  I also don't have to outburst in rage.  In my anger, I don't have to sin.  I have another option.  I have the Kingdom of God within me!  I can take these raw and real emotions and run into a stable and constant place of peace... getting a hug and help.  I can confess and be made right...  I have big, beautiful arms to run into.  Right in that moment.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Me...Holy of Holies

The Holy Spirit... where does He live?

More to the point, where does He live in me?  In you?  Where does He dwell?  Is He in your fingers?  Your heart?  Your gut?  Do you know the feeling of Him in you?

We are told that we are His temple and with faith in Jesus comes the indwelling of His Spirit within in us!  (Romans 8:11, 2 Timothy 1:14, 1 Corinthians 3:16) This is amazing.  Truly amazing.  We, our very bodies, become the "holy of holies"---the house of God.

Do you know what He feels like in you?  Are you aware of His Almighty, Holy Presence there in your inmost being?

I'm not.  Or, at least, not very often.  I am learning.  Teach me awareness, Father. Lead me into Truth, Holy Spirit.  

I have been reading a challenging little book called, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon.  She suggests that much time is lost in our Christian experience by seeking God "outside" ourselves.  We are looking for Him in our world and somewhere outside ourselves.  Of course, He does dwell in the world and in the heavens.  All heaven and earth are His!  ...But, He is much closer than that.

He dwells within.  He lives in us, through us, filling us.  He lives in me.  He lives in you.  This is the "eternal life in Him" and the being "born of the Spirit" that Jesus is offering Nicodemus during that dark night-time conversation.  (John 3:1-20)

Guyon suggests that worship begins with adoration and the beholding of His Presence within you.  She offers a simple way of turning your gaze inward---not toward yourself, but---toward the One who lives within you. Worship can be a simple loving gaze at the Holy Spirit dwelling inside.

I have always loved the concept of God being my refuge, my rock and my fortress.  This thought has been a comfort since my early days of faith.  But, now, I am realizing that that refuge that I always mentally pictured as slightly outside of myself---a place I run to; is, in fact, a refuge and a rock within my very spirit.

In me.  He is building a fortress of strength, a rock of His love, a foundation and a refuge that is within.  I don't have to run anywhere... I only have to acknowledge and turn my gaze inward.

Where does God live in me?  I don't exactly know.  But, I do know He lives and I know that He lives in me.  I want to learn to behold Him there and listen to His leading.   Teach me, Father, to know Your Presence and Your indwelling Spirit within my heart and my very body!  I am yours... possess me entirely, Holy Father.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Painful Release and Surrender

What must she have felt the day she dropped Samuel off at the temple?

What pain must have ripped through her chest, tugging at her heart, as she turned and walked away?  What sorrow did she encounter as she slept her first night alone... her baby boy now ushered into the house of God.

I can only taste Hannah's struggle now as I pray over my boy and realize the desperate need I have to release him.  Release and surrender, once again.

Like Hannah, I asked for him.  My sweet boy.

I pleaded with the Lord.  Praying over my womb, I asked God to give me a warrior.  Within weeks of becoming pregnant, I knew he was a boy... and I knew his name.  He would be called, "Asked of God".  He was a direct answer to my prayers of God's warrior.

Early in my life young teen life, because of my health issues, I was told that it was unlikely I would ever bear a child.  But, God knew better.  God gave me two precious ones.  I asked for them both... my two sweet miracle-gift babies.

Like Hannah, I asked for them.  And, God chose to answer with a massive and beautiful, "Yes!"

...but, also, like Hannah, I know they belong to Him.  They are His.  His creation.  His kids.  His delight.

All along I have known they were gifted to me.  A stewardship offered. They were precious possessions on loan to me, their mother.  They have always been His, before the foundation of the earth (Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 1:4) ---His cherished ones, knit together in my womb.

And, I have indeed, time-and-time-again, surrendered them to His care.

But, somewhere deep within, these two sweet babes still tug so tightly to my womb; almost like they are still attached.  And, if I am honest, somewhere deeper within I hear an unhealthy, sinful cry:"mine!".

My babies.  My children.  Mine.

Mine to care for. Mine to guide.  Mine to fix and make perfect.

Oh! The sickness of possessing and holding too tightly.   The tug and the ripping is a painful one.

What must it have felt like for Hannah to go to the temple that day and hand her miracle-gift over to God? We are told in 1 Samuel 2, that she turns and walks away with praise on her lips, declaring God's power and glory and goodness.  She will declare His faithfulness and His goodness.  My heart finds courage in her worship song!

I taste the bitter and the sweet pain of release tonight as I hear the call of their Father, my Father.

They belong to Me, my love.  They are mine, my daughter.

My loving Father gently calls and reminds my heart that these two sweet miracles are His to care for.  His to guide.  His to fix and perfect.

I need to release.  I need to lay them down again.   Tonight I need to drop my boy off at His house, and let him live under His roof.

"I prayed for this child and the Lord granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." (I Samuel 1: 9-28)

Friday, October 4, 2013

I Left My Hearing Aids Behind

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My father-in-law came for a lovely visit.  The day he left, in the early morning fog and grog, he accidentally left his hearing aids at our house...

He flew home over the Atlantic ocean handicapped with minimized hearing ability.

What a huge bummer!  I can just imagine regularly having and relying on an aid... glasses, pain meds, crutches, braces, or hearing aids... and then suddenly being without them.  I think I would feel pretty vulnerable.

When we found them, we rushed to the post office and sent him the hearing devices...  Express Mail.  Two day delivery.  After a long conversation and much discussion with the post office staff, we were assured... indeed, he would have them soon.  Within days, they promised, the aids would arrive and he will have them in his possession again.

I need aids to help me hear, too.  I need help to spiritually hear, that is.  And, sometimes I leave "my aids" behind in the early morning fog.

Daily times in God's word, my journal, prayer cards, friends to share with, books I read and worship music are only a few of the "glasses, braces and crutches" I use daily to help me see, hear and walk rightly with my heavenly Father.  There are days, though, that I leave them behind.  Accidentally, of course.  I forget them or misplace them or simply overlook their importance.  I leave them until I feel vulnerable and have trouble hearing, of course!

Are you hearing Me, Stephanie?    Are these the words the Spirit has been whispering into my soul this past week?  I am not sure... I am wondering as I type today.

The hearing aids that my father-in-law left at my house didn't make it to him on time.  In fact the parcel was stuck, for no apparent reason, in our country.  They sat, neatly wrapped---carefully protected---in someone's outbox in the middle of the UK.  Days and days left behind.  No worker with the post office could tell me why.

They got left behind again!

Then, they got stuck in the US customs bureaucracy--- a red-tape nightmare of paperwork and misunderstanding!  All the while, my father was handicapped in his ability to hear.  Days and days were passing.  Every day more vulnerability, more frustration.  I was frustrated.  VERY frustrated.  No, actually, I was down-right angry.

When I got the news they were still in the UK, thoughts sped in and out of my mind... and spilled out of my mouth.  'I spent X amount of pounds to send this package!'  'They promised me they would get there!'  'This just isn't right?!'

Are you hearing Me, Stephanie?  

Angered with ridiculous paper work, I was thrown into a tailspin of irritability and defensiveness.  I don't need this right now, I thought.

Stephanie, listen for a minute, ...be still.  Are you hearing Me?  

Literally, the night before the 'hearing-aid-parcel-fiasco' begain, I had copied two quotes into my journal,
"You must utterly believe that the circumstances of your life, that is, every minute of your life- have come to you by His will and by His permission and is exactly what you need" ~Jeanne Guyon  
"One who makes it a rule to be content in every part and accident of life because it comes from God, praises God more than one dedicated an hour of singing psalms."~William Law
Yeah...  uh. huh.  Got it.  Yep.

The words did make me stop at the time I read them.  I pondered.  I prayed.   I read these words, thought on them a bit, ... and THEN walked on, leaving them to rest on the table and quietly tucked in the book. Yep, I left my hearing aids behind!

The very next day, the parcel bureaucracy began... and I was utterly frustrated.

Are you hearing Me, my love?

I sat down to pray with some friends (good friends are great hearing aids!)  As we prayed I started to hear a bit more clearly... to see things as if with better light.

"Utterly believe"...  Guyon had written.  Oh Father, You are speaking to me again of faith and trust.  Surrender and rest in You...  

"Every minute" "every part and accident of life" "by His permission" "Exactly what you need..."  Are you listening, Stephanie? 

Dear Lord, again, today I think you are reminding me that I can remain in You.  I can relax in Your love.  Even in this "accident", I can trust.  I can see and trust Your hand on all things.  I can trust You as my loving, powerful Father...

I found my hearing aids this morning and put them in, turned them up!  Unapologetically, I am picking up my 'crutches' and walking with help.  Indeed, I walk with a limp and need those crutches!  I am turning on that worship music at full volume today.  I need the aids of friends, God's word, worship music, thankfulness lists, and good books to read.  I don't want to leave them behind.

I want to hear you more clearly.  Today, I will listen, Father.  Teach me, I pray.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Same 'ol

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I feel like I have very little to write these days.
In fact, what I really feel is that if I write, I would just be saying the same things over and over again.

I am a pretty simple girl, I guess.  The lessons that Father has been faithfully teaching me lately have been... well, pretty simple.  And, pretty much the same.  The same-song-second-verse!

Any given day, I sit down to write here and think to myself, "Oh... I have said this before... last week, in fact..."   So, I close my "new post" window and move on.  What is the point of writing it again?

It is all written here already.  Tucked quietly away in my post archives are the numerous lessons of faith and trust and love.  Anxiety, fear, gluttony and control issues line the drawers filled with blog posts about God's faithfulness and His goodness.  If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times.

So, do I keep writing here?

In answer to my own musings a thought comes to mind...God is love.  His love endures forever.  God so loved the world.  His loving mercy is new every morning.

Sixty six books of the Bible.  Thirty nine authors.  ...they all wrote much of the same thing.  Over and over.

A fresh word spoken from Isaiah about God's faithfulness.  Isn't it nice that David wrote it, too.  And David wrote it 130 times!!  And, I am glad that Paul wrote about faithfulness again and again.

Hmmm...  makes me think.

I guess that today's simple lessons are fresh for today's simple girl.  Trust lessons I am learning today are fresh bread for me... maybe, just maybe, they might also be fresh bread for someone reading...

So, forgive me if you keep reading the same-song-second-verse from Koodaigirl...  but, that is what I am singing these days.  And, I am pretty sure, I will be singing that song until the end.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

67 Years and Still Learning

"I am just now 67 years old this year", she said as she began explaining a new adventure she was having with God.

"You see I was needing to get to my doctor's appointment the other day..."  She was beautiful, her Welsh accent thick, as she began to share her heart and her current journey with God.

As she spoke, I could just imagine her rushing from one appointment in town to another.  She shared that she had pleaded and begged God to keep the train just a while longer so that she wouldn't miss it.  She was going to be late!  She told me of her pleading prayers as she hurried on her aging, disintegrating knees. "Oh, Lord, please!"  I am very accustomed to seeing her gait.  In my mind's eye, I could see her shuffling as fast as she could to make the train.

And, then, with with a twinkle in her eyes, she leaned in and gave me the punch-line, "Stephanie, ...it was there waiting for me.  It said 'Delayed 9 minutes".

I smiled with her and a sweet, internal "Yes!" welled up within my spirit in agreement with this statement of thanksgiving and praise.  "It was there, just like I asked Him. Why do I wonder and fret?!"

Then came the exclamation point at the end of the story.  With a pause and after a quick chuckle she added quietly and slowly, "And, then ...I heard the Lord say to me: 'I heard you the first time!"  

I heard you, daughter, the very first time you asked.  

"Oh- will I ever learn?!" she said and her head flew back with laughter.

New lessons of faith and trust are my 67 year old friend's adventure.  I love every minute of our conversation.

Faith and trust.  Are these ever too old or too simple to learn again?

Will we ever learn?  Will I ever learn?

My Father seems to be whispering to my heart these new lessons of faith and trust, too.

Patience, my child.  Patience...  My grace is sufficient.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Simple Things

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So simple.  So very simple.  His words to me lately have been elementary.  Simple, clear and beautiful.  

Trust me.  

I love you. 

I am your Almighty Father.

Do not worry.  

Are there times when you feel young--- I mean very young, like a small child?  I do.  Today I do.

God knows this.  I sense Father's tender wisdom and gentleness as He speaks to me about His love, His faithfulness, His grace.

Over and over.  Simple and True.  He whispers and He gently nudges.

There are also times when I feel I should know "more" or "deeper"... or I should grow up and be finished.  Do you ever feel this way?

But, the more I walk this journey, the more I become aware of the cavernous chasm between Truth and what I actually know.  I really don't know these things... this Love, this faithfulness, this amazing grace.

I have tasted, yes, and I have seen.  Each day His love and His faithfulness are on display for me to encounter.  But, still I do not know.

So He speaks simple words to my heart.

And, like the early disciples,  I am curious to know more.   I want to follow Him and spend time with Him. He knows I follow behind... He knows my heart.  (John 1:37-39)

He responds to me, like a small child, "Come and see..."

And, He shows me simple things.  Beautiful things.  He shows me where He is and He lets me learn from Him.

Will I ever grow too old for these things?  Does anyone every get too old for "I love you"?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Please Solve This For Me

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I am a planner. I am a "solver" by nature. I organized and manipulate data. I figure it out and work it through.  I think and I analyse. I make lists and check them off... and then make new lists when the old list gets too short.

I believe God has made me this way. I believe that part of His divine knitting was this very aspect of my personality and gifts. He made me a multi-tasker and a planner. And, I think He is pleased by this part of who I am ...

And, I also believe that this very gift-aspect of His creative hand sometimes gets in the way of my relationship with Him. ...almost daily. In this, I am certain He is sometimes displeased or, in the least, saddened.

When a problem comes my way, or even just as small obstacle, I very naturally decide how to overcome that problem. Again, I begin my list-making and planning. And, I do this time and time again without God. Entirely void of a simple pause to invite Him in, I go on with a knee-jerk reaction and take charge. Often, I act out of some false, deep belief that "I [you] shall be like god" (Genesis 3:5). I decide what is good and evil, take my course of action and go my own way. Essentially, I use my god-like creating abilities to make all things "right". ...right in my own eyes, that is.

Now, because my Father in Heaven is deeply loving and always faithful, He often rescues me or even blesses me even though, or "inspite of"; often, He does allow my plans to be fruitful and my organizing to prosper.  This sweet grace is beyond perplexing to me!

And yet, ...and yet... I miss out on Him. I miss out on doing it with Him. I miss out on relationship!

And, I also think I often miss His best... His solutions, His ways, His very best plan.  My plans are a just settling. When I forget Him, I settle for second best. I settle for action devoid power, plans devoid His wisdom and activity devoid relationship.

Recently, I have wanted this to change. I have really, deeply wanted it to be different. And, this year, I have attempted to stop the natural planning... and simply to ask God to "solve it".

In this I have asked God to help me to remember, to pause, and to ask for His solution. ...and even better yet, to just simply "solve it". And, He has!! He really has done this for me.

Simple things. Small things. Big things. Silly things ...I have seen Him solve them. I have stopped. Waited. Prayed. Hoped. And, I have asked for His solutions.  Father, You are going to have to solve this one! has been my prayer.  It has been sweet to watch Him work.

I certainly don't entirely "get it". I am far from daily practicing this surrendered-reliance on Him. And, I believe He still wants me to use my skills, my gifts, and my Hand-Created personality. But, I really believe my Father wants to do it all... all of life ... with me. He wants to do life, and all it's obstacles, together.

And, His solutions are just best. His ways are better.

This is a re-post from December 2010 ...but, I certainly could have written it yesterday!  ...still learning and re-learning the same things!  You?  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Buzzing Mind

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My mind was whizzing and buzzing and clanking and spinning when I sat in my "quiet-time" chair.  Far from quiet, the thoughts whirling in my head reminded me of some Dr. Seuss rhyme describing Christmas morning noise!  Noise. Noise! Noise!!

Do you ever feel like your brain just won't shut off?  Busy.  Loud. Non-stop.

I felt that way this morning.

As I sat, I attempted the "breathe prayer" that had been so sweet and special to me last week:

"Be still... Be still and know that I am God".

Nothing seemed to bring calm.  Nothing stopped the next "to-do" flooding my mind.  ...more plans to make, lists to write and calculating needed.

Time passed and the internal noise only continued.  A bit frustrated and still buzzing with thoughts, I rose from my noisy-quiet-time and began my day.

While cleaning the dishes, I decided to listen to my "pray-as-you-go" app...  (wonderful resource!)  And, it was in that moment, with the first note of the song playing that the Spirit of God brought calm to my mind.

Beautiful words wafted from my ipod into and over my heart.

Almost like a sinking down, I could feel myself take a long, deep, full breath from the Words...

"O Lord, You search me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise... you perceive my thoughts from afar.."   The Sons of Korah sang God's word over me and the Word brought light and peace.

Right there in the midst of my kitchen... hands soapy and dishes piled high... He brought rest and quiet. Quiet in the midst of noise.

I know you, Stephanie.  I know these thoughts.

He knows me!

He isn't surprised at the whiz and busy and buzzing.   He isn't upset and He isn't bothered.  He knows.  

Just the thought of my Almighty, All Powerful, Ever-Close Father knowing my every thought brought comfort.  He knows.   He knows what I have to do today and He knows where I am borrowing worry for tomorrow.  And, He is okay.

Your loving knowledge is amazing to me.  I am so grateful!  I am also sorry, Lord, that I worry and I run around panting for mental breath and rest.  You offer me daily rest for my soul.  Thank you for the grace that covers all that!  You know me and your love is unfailing.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Keep My Ankle from Turning...

I fell down a few weeks ago.

Not literally, but emotionally, I fell flat and felt buried in sadness and anger.

Strong and painful emotions raged within my mind and heart.  I was deeply sad and I was mad---very, very mad. But, the emotional pain of my tumble was only secondary to the excruciating pain which came in the aftermath---the aftershocks in my soul.  For days afterward, I was angry at myself for this fall.  The "beating up" began only moments after the fall.  Accusations were loud and intense:  How old are you, Stephanie?!  I thought you were better than this... stronger than this...  Is your faith even real?  Have you learned anything?  Who are you to teach?  ...to lead?  You are such a looser.  Where is your faith now?    The hissing lies from without and within were dark and heavy.    These words I was hearing brought only chaos and more anger... more sadness.  More dark.

Lies always bring darkness, shame and chaos.  Truth brings Light... and repentance...and peace.

Today I walk upright and sure.  Those angry voices are silenced and I am walking at peace with myself and with my God.  And, I am learning and re-learning new and old lessons as I ponder and pray and look back on what happened inside.

Maybe I will write later about how God "righted" me...  Or, why I believe (wrongly) that strong emotions or "falling apart" is cause for shame...  Those, and other lessons, are for another post.

For now, it was so good to be reminded of my vulnerability and my weakness.  I am vulnerable.  Every day. It was so healthy for me to find myself so in utter need of Jesus, ...just Jesus, to lift me from my fall.  And, He did.  He lifted my head and filled my mind with Truth.

I am finding that my prayers lately have shifted just slightly.  Where before I might have asked God to strengthen me, I am asking Him to be my strength.

I was reading yesterday and I was so struck by these beautiful verses, "You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankle does not turn" (Psalm 18:36)

This.  This is the heart of my prayers recently.  Not that God would strengthen my ankles... but that He, Himself, would be my strength.  Asking that He would broaden my path and keep my ankle from turning. Psalm 18 begins with, "I love you, O Lord, my strength".

O Lord, my strength.  You alone are my rock and my defense.  You are my shield.    

A subtle shift has happened in my heart.  ...More dependence and more awareness of my need for Him every hour and every minute.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Daily Invitation to Rest

Life can be very loud.  The noise isn't always discordant.  It is just noise.  Things to do. Places to be.  People to see.  Life's daily orchestra playing day-in-and-day-out---the instruments of people, appointments, and laundry.

The choice for solitude and silence is never easy.  Quiet and calm aren't easy to find.

Then to add to the hubbub of life there are noises in my heart; or, better said, from my heart.  In my mind and in my soul is a cacophony of sound shouting for attention.  Worries about this and about that.  Concerns about him and about her.  Plans for this...  Fixing that...  Wondering and hoping...  I am calculating and re-living.  I am analyzing and accusing.  The noises are numerous--and loud.  

Quiet and calm aren't easy to find.  But, they are available.

Often I find calm and quiet in a good book.  As a habit, I attempt to read regularly.  I read mostly because I need to remember.  I need to be called-back and to be reminded.  I read because I have a need for deep dialogue. Sometimes I desperately need right thoughts to counter the clamor filling my mind and my heart.   I don't read looking for new or profound things.  I read to remember and "talk" about True things:  old things and learned thing.

Currently I am having a lovely "conversation" with Eugene Peterson in Eat this Book.  And, last night in Richard Foster's Prayer, he kindly reminded me of the beautiful invitation I have from God to come to Him and rest.  


The prayer of rest, Foster calls it and I read his story.  Foster reminds me of the words of my brother, Jesus:  "Come to me all who are weary or heavy... and I will give you rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28).  

My mind needs rest.  My body needs rest.  And, most certainly, my soul needs rest.  Often.  

So, I responded to Richard's reminder.  I closed the book.  And, I sat.  I entered the Rest offered.  

Be still.  

Just be still, Stephanie. 

Be still and know.  

Know, right now, my love. 

Be still and know that I am God.  

And, in that moment the voices died down.  The waters went still.  The to-do list was released.  The worries and the calculating were engulfed in a calm and a Presence that is my God!

Father, what a gift you give me in Yourself.  Jesus what an offer!  I choose You today.  I open my hands and I open my heart and I say, "yes" to the rest You offer me today.  Thank you.  Would You remind me again and again to remain in this Love...  to remain in rest... to remain in You!  
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